A TOTAL of 299 seafarers from the United Kingdom have come home amid a novel coronavirus pandemic that has sickened 4.2 million and killed more than 284,000 people worldwide, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday.
Locally, COVID-19 infections reached 11,086 after the Department of Health (DoH) reported 292 more cases yesterday.
The death toll rose to 726 after seven more patients died, it said in a bulletin. Seventy-five more people have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 1,999, it added.
Of the 292 new cases, 162 came from Metro Manila, 74 from Central Visayas and 56 are from the other regions, DoH said.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told a news briefing the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded molecular and diagnostic pathology laboratory in Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital was opened on Saturday and would increase the national daily testing capacity by 3,000.
The laboratory would also help in the study of genetic diseases and cancer, among other illnesses, she said。
Kelly Bird, country director at ADB, said the multilateral lender was discussing a $125-million COVID-19 response project with DoH that could be approved next month.
北京赛车pk10投注The project seeks to set up two new laboratories, train technicians, scale up equipment and supplies to be distributed to public hospitals, and renovate and build isolation wards in some public hospitals, he said.
“We hope this will be up and running very quickly,” Mr. Bird said. “It will be quite a comprehensive project supporting the Department of Health scaling up its response.”
Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs department said it would resume fetching Filipinos from overseas now that airport authorities have lifted the suspension on inbound international flights。
“With the reopening of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport today, DFA resumes its daily repatriation efforts by welcoming home 299 Filipino crew members of MV Azura from London,” it said in a social media post.
北京赛车pk10投注This brings the total number of Filipino workers who have come home to more than 26,400。
The DFA’s repatriation program was halted after the government suspended inbound flights for a week starting May 3.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on Saturday announced it would lift the restriction, even as it limited flights to 400 passengers daily.
Meanwhile, DFA said two new laboratories have been certified as testing centers for Filipinos and their families who came home。
The certified laboratories now include the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Hospital in Pampanga and the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center in Tacloban City, bringing the total number of testing centers for OFWs to 26.
The laboratories also include the Chinese General Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, Makati Medical Center, Marikina City Health Office, Philippine Genome Center-University of the Philippines Diliman and Philippine National Red Cross.
Also yesterday the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) sought P2.5 billion in funding from Congress to finance its assistance to returning overseas Filipinos.
“We have an OWWA fund but we’re hoping that Congress and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) can help us to fund these arrivals,” OWWA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac said at an online House of Representatives hearing.
He said the agency was “financially healthy,” adding that it plans to use the OWWA trust fund to help overseas Filipinos after the lockdown.
“We are not in the red, we are financially healthy,” Mr. Cacdac said. “What we want is congressional assistance, DBM assistance to augment our funds.”
The agency has spent about P381 million helping 26,737 OFWs since the main island of Luzon was locked down on March 17.
OWWA expects about 45,000 Filipinos to return home this month and in June, Mr. Cacdac said.
Party-List Rep. Eric G. Yap. who heads the House committee on appropriations, said he supports the OWWA proposal. “I am in full support of the intention but it remains to be seen if this amount is justified or maybe it isn’t enough,” he said in a Viber message.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cacdac said 4,000 overseas Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus disease 2019. — Charmaine A. Tadalan, Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Genshen L. Espedido